Local Politics

Cumberland schools chief to head DPI

Posted January 26, 2009

— Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Bill Harrison was named Monday as the new chairman of the State Board of Education and chief executive officer of the state's public school system.

A recent consultant's report criticized the state Department of Public Instruction for a lack of leadership, and Gov. Bev Perdue said that placing Harrison is a CEO role – effectively putting him in charge of day-to-day operations in the department – would fill that void.

“We need to have a clear line of accountability and better structural support to implement new policies,” Perdue said in announcing a string of changes to the state's educational leadership. "I thought long and hard about it – did a lot of reading, talked to a lot of people – and have decided that this is about the only way I can solve the whole issue of who's in charge."

Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson has no statutory authority over the DPI's operations and primarily works with education and business leaders statewide to improve schools. In addition to that role, Perdue asked her to lead a task force on career development and work force issues.

Harrison also replaces Howard Lee on the Board of Education, and Perdue said the longtime state senator would become the executive director of her Education Cabinet.

The cabinet includes state education leaders and is supposed to develop "a strategic design for a continuum of education programs." The group met infrequently during former Gov. Mike Easley's administration, and Perdue pledged to revive it.

Perdue also named Myra Best as her special adviser on education and education innovation issues. Best is director of the Business Education Technology Alliance and the E-Learning Commission.

“Myra has been instrumental in helping me put more technology in our schools,” Perdue said. “She will help us continue to reach our goals of providing 21st-century learning options in every corner of our state.”

Also, J.B. Buxton, a former education adviser to Easley, said he would step down as deputy state superintendent, and Perdue said she has no plans to fill the position with Harrison overseeing DPI.

Harrison, whose annual salary remains at $220,835, has headed the Cumberland County school district since August 1997. He also spent 13 years, from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s, as a teacher and principal in the district.


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  • DBnNC Jan 27, 2009

    I just don't get it.....How can the Gov rise above the citizens of NC and put someone in charge of the day to day operations of our public schools, when the citizens of this State have gone to the polls and elected June Atkinson to fill this roll. I agree that something needs to be done with public education, but I don't believe that we need a CEO and a superintendent (figure-head). I feel that June should be the CEO for the citizens again elected her. And talk about balancing the budget, give me a break....the CEO/State Board of Ed chair making 220K, that's at least six classroom teachers. Put the dollars where the actual work is being done and you will see results. And while you are at it, get rid of the top heavy CEO's and Chief's at DPI and fill it with more able bodied workers and results will follow. As a citizen of this state, as a voter, and as a former educator I feel that my voice was not heard when I voted for June. I feel the Gov is crossing the line here.

  • AARRGGH Jan 27, 2009

    I thought the government was suppose to be looking ways to cut budgets--not add to them by creating "new" positions

  • Bob3425 Jan 27, 2009

    "Harrison, whose annual salary remains at $220,835, has headed the Cumberland County school district since August 1997"

    Does anyone believe he going to be making less than what he does now? Then of course someone will be hired to be CC school superintendent, how many more teacher could be hired for this one person salary? or school supplies for students? or how many school could have gotten some required maitenance done? I don't want to hear school need more funds, if the State can create jobs like this and over pay people like this then I would said the school must be okay or bad decision are being made...anyone for change?

  • MeatHead Jan 26, 2009

    This man should never be in charge of anything!! I live in Cumberland CO. and his policies were bias at best.Most were in place to leave permanent marks on minority students school records for minor infractions. I've heard older women and men say in the past say, "I've seen you before and I know who you are."

  • tarheelcoach Jan 26, 2009

    This position costs the taxpayers nothing, and actually should do everyone some good. The CEO position replaces the Asst. Superintendent spot, but now there is a definitive leader in the SBOE. The state paid $140,000 for a consultant's study of the department, and this was their recommendation - someone had to be in charge.
    And the pick is a good one - I've worked for Dr. Harrison for 12 years, and he is an intelligent, thoughtful leader who actually has the best interests of the kids at heart. That kind of leader is hard to find at that level of education.

  • phoenixelon99 Jan 26, 2009

    Please tell me how it is that we are going to be more efficient in our education department by paying someone $221K to oversee HIMSELF?! As chair of the State Board of Education, and as CEO of the Department of Public Instruction, doesn't he effectively work for himself? What in the world? Why have a superintendent? Why not just go ahead and abolish the office and be done with it? The legislature's been working towards that for the last 25 years. Be done with it and stop wasting money, or give the ELECTED SUPERINTENDENT the respect she deserves and let HER be the CEO!

  • RonnieR Jan 26, 2009

    Updated now, the Asst Supt is leaving and that position will remain vacant.

  • RonnieR Jan 26, 2009

    She doesn't run anything now. The Asst Supt runs the department under direction of the State Board of Education.

  • HopingForABetterWorld Jan 26, 2009

    Agreed wa4...way to save money Governor. A new position that probably makes $200,000 a year, and we are now going to pay his salary for Cumberland County Sup't until a deal can be worked out. Is this legal? The people elected Atkinson...can the governor just create a position above her and justify it by specific duties? That doesn't seem right.

  • RonnieR Jan 26, 2009

    So now we have a Supt of Public Instruction, who is just a figger head. An Assistant Supt of Public Instruction who now runs the department. Now we add a CEO to tell the Asst Supt what to do. Seems like Purdue's job stimulus plan gone amuck.